Moving the needle on collaboration in your organization
How to move from the 72% to the 28%
People understand from experience that when they collaborate, they can accomplish more. And the numbers underscore that companies who collaborate better outperform their peers by 2 to 6 times.
Yet most companies or departments are in the 72% of organizations whose collaboration maturity is either, “Unsupported” or “Non-integrated”.
Whether I talk to a small businesses or a department in a large corporation, one thing is common, they all want to collaborate better. They want to be able to do more from both an effective communication and collaboration point-of-view. Even though they are doing some collaborative things, they know they can do more. But they aren’t sure what they should be doing next to collaborate better. Even when we start talking about some of the things that they could be doing, they have a hard time imagining themselves using the new collaborative tools within their businesses or they can’t imagine spending any money on the tools they want to get better at collaboration.
There are many different things that you can do to build your organization’s collaborative muscle and accelerate your collaborative performance. Here is a chart from SMART Technologies “Inspired Collaboration” initiative, which shows many of the levers which can be adjusted within your organization.
These levers are really good for a “top down” approach to collaboration within your organization, but they don’t help much when your company doesn’t have the resources to conduct a “top down” analysis.
Most organizations take a Crawl, Walk, Run (C-W-R) approach, which is a sound strategy, however, many never make it past the Crawl stage – the 72%
So how can you take the C-W-R approach and make sure you progress?
Step 1: The most important meeting
No matter how big or small your company is, let’s take the discussion down to a departmental level, to make this applicable to every businessperson, Ask yourself – What is the most important meeting you attend that recurs at least once a month?
Chances are that whatever meeting you picked, it is some kind of an update or status meeting. A meeting whose objective is to synchronize the activities of a team updating each other on what has happened since the last time you met. This could be a weekly Sales meeting, Operations meeting, a Project meeting, etc. – you get the idea.
In the meeting, it is likely that the team is making adjustments to some kind of scorecard or project plan trying to monitor their progress since the last meeting and deciding where their attention needs to be directed too. Once you have identified that meeting, you should now answer these questions from a collaboration point-of-view:
Are the participants all local or are some remote? If there are remote participants, are they all individuals or is there another meeting room somewhere that has a number of people that are joining the meeting (or both)?
What technologies are you using? How are you using them?
What is missing? How do you want everyone more engaged, more involved?
Depending on the answers to these questions you can start to incrementally make your “Most Important Meeting” better. The first incremental improvements often don’t cost anything at all. Why? Because most people don’t know how to get the most out of the technology they are already using. I sometimes sit through a customer’s “Most Important Meeting” and after the meeting is over, I point out 2 or 3 things that they can do to make the experience better for everyone just by making a few adjustments.
The next part of the crawl is to add a couple of pieces of technology that will further enhance the meeting. These can be anywhere from a couple $100 to say $2,000. Adding these pieces builds the quality of the meeting experience, e.g. making it easier to hear and be heard.
The next step is where we start to progress from the crawl to the walk. Here is where we lay out how we can make the meeting better with technology, which makes collaboration easier for in-room participants, and for remote participants, makes them feel like they are in the room with the rest of the people.
This is where you have to spend more money on technology IF you want to get to this point. The types of technology you would add:
- In-room content sharing
- High quality audio
- Large format LED displays & Multiple displays
- Video conferencing
- Multi-function room capabilities
- Electronic Interactive Whiteboards
- And more
Depending on the size of the room these technologies can add up. Each one of them on their own can start at several thousand dollars and if you go big, 10s of thousands. But if you have budget constraints, you can prioritize and implement them one at a time until you get to the collaborative experience that is optimal for your “Most Important Meeting”.
The “Most Important Meeting” tends to drive the priority of having room technology to accelerate collaboration and enhance communication, but from my experience it plays a secondary, but important role in an organization’s collaborative development. You will get a much bigger payback if you can accelerate the collaboration of all the activities that take place between the “Most Important Meetings”. If you can inject greater collaboration into the activities between the team members as they do their day-to-day jobs, you will go to a full collaborative Walk.
But how do you do that?
Step 2: team activities between the most important meetings
Stay tuned to this blog for Steps 2 to 4 on moving collaboration forward in your business or department. But remember you can increase your collaborative muscle by:
- Taking small steps – some incremental things are foolproof and cost nothing
- Not being afraid of bigger steps
- Planning to learn from every step you take
And remember the goal, you can make your organization 2 to 6 times better by increasing your velocity of collaboration.
Skype for Business – A Unified Communications Tool?
The most “fame” Skype has received is probably from the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” where the cast uses it regularly to communicate. For example, Raj’s parents who live in India are fringe characters in the show and viewers only know them via Raj who is using Skype on his laptop in the USA.
I use the word “fame” in quotes because TV has given Skype a level of notoriety, which most technology just doesn’t reach. The show has to some extent normalized the use of Skype. And note that the word Skype isn’t actually mentioned on the show but we assume that Skype is the program that is being used, as opposed to other system designs.
Skype – the Most Popular Internet Communications Software in the World for Voice and Video
Millions of people use it every day for personal communications.
According to TeleGeography, ”While international phone traffic growth is slowing, traffic from voice and messaging applications like Skype continue to increase at a stunning pace. TeleGeography estimates that cross-border Skype-to-Skype voice and video traffic grew 44 percent in 2012, to 167 billion minutes. This increase of nearly 51 billion minutes is more than twice that achieved by all international carriers in the world, combined.”
And those personal users are extending Skype for business use as well.
Skype is used for a lot more than video. In fact it really started out and is still primarily used for voice calls. Skype offers a full Unified Communication (UC) technology stack, which is pretty powerful, but not as “industrial” as some enterprise UC technology offerings from say, Cisco or Microsoft.
Skype’s full UC capabilities make it a lot more useful than any of the single communications capabilities on its own.
What Are the Core UC Capabilities Required in Order to Qualify as a UC Product?
- Instant Messaging (IM)
Skype’s UC Capabilities
Presence is about knowing the status or availability of the people that are part of your list of contacts in Skype. If you had 25 people that were on your list of Skype contacts, with a quick glance at the list you can determine if they are online, available, busy, etc. Presence is a handy tool to quickly see how your contacts are currently connected into the Skype world.
IM (Instant Messaging)
IM is no technology breakthrough but is very handy as part of a UC suite. IM let’s you send instant messages to your contacts, or create group message forums. This is handy in a number of situations; your contact shows as busy but may answer an IM message still keeping their voice or video call going; when you establish a voice or video call, one of the parties may have their mic on mute. IM allows communication to advise that they can’t hear the muted party; sending messages to one of the parties in a multi-party call as a side bar conversation. Interestingly Microsoft, which owns Skype, recently announced that they will be retiring Windows Live Messenger forcing users to upgrade to Skype.
Here is where Skype really shines. Free calling computer-to-computer anywhere in the world. That is how Skype went viral, established a huge user base and became a household name brand service. Skype’s voice offering capabilities have grown significantly since the early days and includes: Skype to landline; Skype to mobile; and multi-party conferencing calls (can still be dicey), and voicemail. Note: Most of the additional services are chargeable.
Skype video is pretty good for person to person but their multi-party video offering is chargeable, requiring one participant to have a premier account and doesn’t work that well. I have used other products that allow me to conduct a good video to video call with limited bandwidth, where the same call using Skype, has Skype telling me to turn off my video because there is not enough bandwidth.
Skype will likely continue to develop this part of their technology solution. A case in point is that they just recently announced a new Video Messaging service where users (for a fee) can leave video mail messages.
Beyond Unified Communications
Skype also offers features, which go beyond the UC stack, such as: content sharing, files transfer, and SMS messaging. These features make the product more powerful and useful.
Skype also works on lots of devices, PC, Macs, tablets and phones, but typically the full UC suite is not available on all these platforms.
Skype is a powerful communications platform and is getting better all the time. It is not always the best platform for business or for connecting outside participants to meeting rooms.
Time will tell whether this changes as the product continues to develop. Skype’s continued growth and feature enhancement paints a rosy future for it. Skype is a great starter technology for enhanced communications.
But as you start to pay for more Skype features and push the limits of the technology, there are other viable options, which solve some of its limitations and are offered at a comparable price point. Contact us to discuss these alternative options like commercial grade video conferencing solutions like our HybridX.